Public Lab Research note


Community-level Odor Mapping Site

by sarasage |

Read more: publiclab.org/n/13405


sarasage was awarded the Basic Barnstar by stevie for their work in this research note.


Tracking odors in our local environment

The most accessible and sophisticated environmental monitoring equipment is made available to most humans in the forms of noses, eyes, tongues, ears and skin. The process of gathering and soliciting odor data is not centralized in my community, where the closest homes are less than 1,000 feet from one of California's largest landfills. Through community advocacy, residents are beginning to become aware to contact the proper regulatory agency - and not just the landfill.

Gathering and analyzing odor data from existing agencies has been challenging:

  • The current odor complaint process is not streamlined for people who wish to report an odor complaint. Contact information from multiple agencies are provided for residents in the community near the Chiquita Canyon Landfill, for instance. The way information is presented, there appears to be no central contact point to report odors.
  • Data collected by the primary regulatory agency (South Coast Air Quality Management District) is partially confidential and location-blind, so local and hyper-local odor trends cannot be pinpointed or further analyzed for patterns by the public.
  • Would-be Notices of Violation for odor are issued by South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), the regulatory agency responsible for monitoring air quality near landfills in Southern California. Not all people who live in the vicinity know they should contact AQMD.

A online, local odor reporting drive would not only provide opportunities to gather data, but also to further educate the community on how to report odors to the proper regulatory agency.

A no-frills webform

A website, www.odorcomplaint.com was registered for the goal of investigating how a quick webform could be used by the community for local odor issues arising with Chiquita Canyon Landfill. We have started beta testing with a few local residents.

Data resulting from the webform would be compiled and analyzed for public review.

Questions and next steps

  • How to provide access to people who do not have computers in their home?
  • How to make the input process user-friendly and fast so that participants will return?
  • How do we ensure that our reporting process does not distract community participants from reporting to the proper regulatory agency?
  • How can we incorporate or utilize existing AQMD odor-complaint information into this project?

Next Steps:

  • Finding more beta testers
  • Translating form and site into Spanish

Why I'm interested

This is interesting because the regulatory landscape for tracking odors varies greatly from locality, state or nation. Investigating how a community-driven data effort could work in tracking odors is interesting because it requires equipment from equipment most people have -- a nose and a wifi signal.


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6 Comments

stevie awards a barnstar to sarasage for their awesome contribution!


This looks so great! I'd be interested in contributing -- is the code open source somewhere I can take a look?

Also, I'd tried to connect you with Naya Martinez who was at the barnraising, who has a lot of experience with odor logs, in paper form. I'm sure some of the paper version could be adapted, perhaps the specific multiple choice phrasing, etc. Naya is @CCEJN on this site -- she should get a notification of this comment.

Naya -- do you have a copy of the paper odor logs you work with, that you could share?

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Thanks, Jeff! I think Naya was present at the barnraising session where this odor-mapping project was proposed and I believe my husband and Naya both worked on the hand-written template together, so getting Naya in on the conversation would be great.

(I have some research for Naya regarding low-cost and wearable pesticide test strips I need to send her way, too)


Sara - just noticing -- i think you have to include http:// in the url to www.odorcomplaint.com; the link isn't working as it is. Thanks!


Thanks, Jeff!


Hi! I was curious if you're planning to post a map of reports from this app -- and if there are ways other communities could re-use this code to do reporting? Thanks!

Also -- do note some of the recent posts on odor reporting here:

https://publiclab.org/notes/imvec/02-18-2018/odor-log-1-0

https://publiclab.org/questions/Zengirl2/03-09-2018/what-is-an-easy-to-use-phone-app-for-public-to-record-air-quality-issues-air-app-tech

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